Feed My Lambs, Tend My Sheep
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A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (Jn 13:34a)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
In the above verses, the word “love” is translated from the Greek agápē, which is associated with the selfless love of God. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul describes this type of love as something that is greater than giving away all our possessions to feed the poor, or even delivering one’s body to be burned. Truly, Jesus’ love is beyond human comprehension; how can we love one another on the same scale?
This issue’s theme articles discuss how to care for the “little ones” and reach out to the lost sheep, pointing out how precious these are in the Lord’s eyes. One article stresses the importance of taking care of the elderly members—a pastoral work that should not be neglected. Since we are blessed to be in the True Jesus Church community of faith, where we have the truth, the spirit of God, and a supportive family in Christ, we are encouraged to look to the future with great anticipation.
Read on, and prepare to be motivated!
Go and Make Disciples of All Nations
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The redemption of all nations was part of God’s salvation plan from the beginning of the ages (Eph 3:5–9). From of old, God had revealed to Abraham that he would become father of many nations, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him (Gen 12:2; 17:4–6; 18:18). Indeed, it was through Abraham’s Seed—Jesus Christ—that salvation was given to all nations (Gen 22:18; Acts 3:25b; Gal 3:8, 14, 16).
After accomplishing the work of salvation, through His death and resurrection, Jesus commissioned His apostles with an important task:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…” (Mt 28:19a)
As the revived apostolic church in the end times, the True Jesus Church has inherited this commission, and will see it fully realized:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Mt 24:14)
TJC at 100: Towards the Triumphant Church
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A hundred years is a significant milestone, and milestones are important if we are serious about our goal.
The end of a thing is better than its beginning (Eccl 7:8a).
“Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure.’ ” (Isa 46:10)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Rev 22:13)
This second centennial issue looks towards the triumphant church—conceived in eternity and declared at the very beginning—when the promised Savior will crush Satan under His feet and ours (Gen 3:15; Rom 16:20). The significance of century—let it be a blessing, not bane. We know whom we have believed, and that we are indeed His elect community—both an assurance and a great responsibility.
TJC at 100: The Grace That Has Brought Us Here
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The year 2017 marks the centennial of the True Jesus Church, the restored apostolic church established by the Holy Spirit during the latter rain period. As the end-time true church, founded on unshakeable truth and equipped with power, we are commissioned to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth.
This is the time to reflect on our humble beginnings and the phenomenal growth that followed. In the articles In Retrospection and Reflection: One Hundred Years of Spiritual Grace, My Journey of Serving the Lord, and A Letter to Our Youths: Sharing the Grace of God, veteran church workers share the amazing grace with which God has blessed His church hroughout the last century, and the simple but powerful faith manifested by the early believers.
While we are grateful for a hundred years of spirituality and grace, we need to look into ourselves honestly—how does the second half-century of our existence compare with the first? Are we pressing on upwards or are we slipping down? Do we still model ourselves after the apostolic church and courageously make a stand against and apart from the worldly religions and philosophies?
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year in Israel, the heavy winter rains contribute to the healthy growth of crops. As the land transitions into spring, the
crops depend on the spring, or latter, rain to ensure they ripen to full
maturity and provide a good harvest. Biblically, the pattern of rainfall in
Israel is closely associated with the people’s faithfulness towards God, as
reflected in the following passage:
“And it shall be that if you
earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the LORD your God and
serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the
rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain.… Take
heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve
other gods and worship them, lest the LORD’s anger be aroused against
you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain.” (Deut 11:13–17a)
the spiritual context, the advent of spring signals the need for the church to
grow into maturity, to be prepared for the harvest, the second coming of the
Winter in Israel differs from the drab,
depressing and frosty months in some places. After autumn seeding at the
beginning of the rainy season, the showers increase into heavy winter rains,
causing the crops to grow. The rain should continue into spring, when the
latter rain matures the grain for harvest. However, weather in the holy land is
as unpredictable as the hearts of the children of Israel, so when rainfall
becomes sporadic or when there is no latter rain, many of the crops fail to
ripen, resulting in a poor harvest. In biblical times, this was a reflection of
God’s displeasure with His people (Jer 3:3).
So on one hand, winter is the
gateway to fruitfulness and vitality; on the other hand, it can be a time of
trepidation. Hence, winter is a time of waiting—either in joyful expectation of
renewal or with repentant prayer for restoration. In either case, it is a time
of looking to God to fulfill His promises when spring arrives.
In the temperate regions of the world,
autumn is a time of transition. As the air chills, the leaves turn to gold and
fall from the trees. Animals begin to store food, or fatten themselves up,
ready for hibernation. In times past, many cultures would store provisions to
see them through the lean winter months, so a bountiful autumn harvest was crucial
to their preparations.
In Palestine, autumn is the time of the
early rain—showers which soften the ground after the dry and arid summer. This
prepares the soil so that farmers can plough and sow their fields. If there is
no early rain, the ground would be unable to absorb any heavy deluges. Once the
seed is planted, the farmer only has to wait patiently for springtime, when the
crops will grow. Rather than a darkening time of approaching hardship, autumn
is in fact a time of hope and preparation for the future.
be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. (Jas 5:7)
The writers of the Bible saw the giving of
rain as a sign of God’s faithfulness and providence. In spiritual terms, the autumn
showers point to the depth of God’s love and grace in that He has already prepared
the ground for the salvation of His elect.
The roots of God’s salvation plan, planted
before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4), is seeded throughout the history and
prophecies of the Old Testament. Without fail, many of these promises have blossomed
and borne fruit in the events of the New Testament and in the end time. The
rest will surely come to pass—all we
need to do is trust God’s word, and ensure that our faith is built on the
foundation laid by Christ.
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“Thus the LORD GOD showed me: Behold a basket of summer fruit…”The end has come upon My people…”” (Amos 8:1)
Soaring temperatures in the land of Israel during the long and rainless summer expose its inhabitants to the perils of heatstroke. The burdensome “heat of the day” (Mt 20:12), as opposed to the “cool of the day” (Gen 3:8) points to the result of sin, but also to the saving grace of God, reminiscent of the wilderness journey in the scorching sun but shaded “under the cloud” (Num 14:14; 1 Cor 10:1) .
The blazing heat in Israel is used by Isaiah for an eschatological message. As the world heads towards the inevitable, when “the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Pet 3:10), the prophet describes the blessed state of the elect, later echoed by John: “They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them” (Is 40:10; Rev 7:16).
As the chosen ones of God who live in the end times, we constantly experience the “heat of the day” in the form of various challenges to our faith. What are these challenges? How can we overcome them? How does God shade us from the scorching sun? More importantly, how should we prepare ourselves for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how do we find true spiritual fulfillment as described by Elder John?
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Scripture reveals to us that at one point in Jewish history God lamented, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (Hos 4:1). He further mourned, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6a). Note that these grievances were not directed at the entire world; they were specific charges against God’s chosen people. God had an expectation of His beloved people, and they did not live up to it. Rather than walking in His ways, they betrayed the true and living God to join themselves to idols, harlotry, and wickedness (Hos 4:2,12). No wonder God’s “heart churns within [Him]” (Hos 11:8).
The apostolic church also stressed the importance of growing in spiritual knowledge. In the middle of a discourse concerning Jesus Christ as our High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek, the author of Hebrews digresses to reprove the members for their declining faith. The author bemoans, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God” (Heb 5:12). It is clear the apostles also had expectations of the members. A lengthier time in Christ should naturally beget knowledgeable and mature believers—believers who would be able to instruct others. Instead, the members remained unskilled in the word, unable to discern, and dithered on the elementary principles of Christ (Heb 5:13–14; 6:1). The way the author continues also suggests these believers had regressed to the point of being borderline apostates (cf. Heb 6:4–8).
The people of God were “destroyed for lack of knowledge.” What about us? What are the things that we must know to ensure our salvation? Do we lack this knowledge? Do our children lack knowledge? Does our church lack knowledge? God was pained over that generation. How does He see ours?
Making Time for God
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In the blink of an eye, another
new year is upon us. At this point, we will usually look back and reflect on
what we have achieved over the past year. Some will be satisfied that they have
made the most of their time, while others will be disappointed that they did
not reach their desired goals. Sadly, our personal ambitions often become
buried under the more mundane dealings of life—and this is especially true of
our spiritual ambitions.
Many will recognize the feeling
that time is always against them, whether they are a student working to
deadline, a professional juggling multiple projects, or a parent managing a
chaotic household. It can often seem like there are not enough hours in a day. As
Christians, we also have the duty to cultivate our spirituality and serve the
Lord. But when our time and energy are limited, our faithfulness and service
towards God are usually the first to suffer. After all, we think we can always
draw closer to God later on, when we have more time. But is this really the